Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Curry without chips

It may be difficult to believe in these days of multicultural cooking, but I had never tasted curry until I was nineteen years old.  Despite having been born near the London docks with a spice warehouses nearby, foreign foods were not eaten in our house, if you dont count bagels and soused herring.

Back then, ending an evening in the pub with a curry or a vindaloo or whatever was not that common. I had not been to a Chinese or Indian restaurant or any other kind of restaurant for that matter apart from the fish restaurant attached to a fish and chip shop.  I am not even sure if Manzes Eel and Pie  shop qualified as a restaurant either.

So I came to like curry quite by chance. During my national service I was stationed in a small unit near Suez and the military police camp was shared with a similarly small unit of Mauritians.  Our unit's cook was replaced by a young catering Corps chap who had not actually learned to cook.  This has come about because he was a professional footballer, an apprentice with Glasgow Celtic  so had spent all his training time playing football instead of learning catering.

His early efforts at cooking for fifteen men were a disaster and more often than not were a wate of good food so that we were often still hungry even when we had eaten.

I was friendly with a couple of the Mauritian military police and would wander over to their side of the compound and scrounge a meal.  It seemed to be a curry every day.  I was welcomed into the kitchen and a watched the meals being prepared and gradually learned how it was done.  Curry is a simple meal really, especially Mauritian style.  Just some meat, mostly chicken or lamb, some dried fruit, plenty of tomatoes an apple and mango chutney with generous spoonfuls of curry powder.
What could be simpler.

Eventually we sent our Scottish cook over to learn how it was done and that became his speciality.